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Thursday, August 11, 2011

That Poor, Poor Protagonist Flash Fiction

 Well, I seem to fail at the whole 1000 words a day thing...but I do have my submission to the newest flash fiction challenge over at Terrible Minds.  This time the challenge was to torture your protagonist and I decided to focus on one of my favorite characters, Mantarok.  He is the main character in quite a few of the short stories I've written and this is just a little peek into what happened when he was a boy.  I hope it is sufficiently torturous for the challenge.

Mother's Perfume

As he opened his eyes, the room slowly swam into focus. Blurred lines and doubled images coalesced into a reality that he could not ignore by simply closing his eyes and pretending it wasn't happening. His home was burning, and his family was likely dead or worse. The fact that he was likely soon to join his family since he was still inside the burning building did not do must to comfort him either. All he could think of as he lay on the ground was ' mother's perfume...'

The day had started like any other for the young Mantarok Kandrick. He had awoken early to help his family tend to the farming. Heading out to the barn, he smiled and ruffled his little sisters hair as she spread feed for the chickens pecking at her feet. “Morning, Mannie.” she said with a smile. “Morning Daisy.” he replied as she gave him a hug.

“Mom is in the barn with Esmeralda. She thinks she'll be giving birth soon.” Daisy said as she finished throwing the last of the feed down. “She said she wanted you to go help her.” Mantarok nodded, “I was just on my way there anyway.” he said as he continued on to the barn.

As he opened the barn door, the smell of hay and large animals sharply invaded his nose. Lingering throughout the barn though was the faint hint of his mother's perfume. He could always pick it out, no matter how little there was, as it was the only frivolity she ever permitted herself. As his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light inside the barn, he saw her standing by their large milking cow, Esmeralda.

“Morning, Ma.” he said as he crossed over and looked at the large bovine. His mother smiled at
him and said, “Morning, son. Looks like she's fit to burst. I give her another day or most a week before she's ready to give birth.” His mother ran a hand through her long blonde hair and sighed. “If the calf is healthy enough, we could get a goodly amount for it at the next town fair. If our crops don't pick up it may be our only entry this year.”

Mantarok sighed and walked out of the barn with his mother. They slowly headed over to the large field that he helped his father and brother tend. He could already see them out tilling the fields with their large bull Brigado pulling the plow. The fields at this time of year would normally be lush and overgrown with various vegetables and crops. However, a strange blight had been striking the local farms lately and most of the farmers had been forced to plow their crops under and start again.

The new plants seemed to be growing in nicely enough, but they would be hard pressed to be prepared for the fair in a couple months time. The town fair was one of the bigger events of the year in the city. Mantarok smiled as he remembered saving up his money and buying his mother that jar of her perfume last year from the gnomish trader who had been visiting.

The family continued on with their chores, slowly but surely burning the day away. It was just another day for the Kandrick family, though the fog that clung thickly to the ground was certainly uncommon for the time of year. At times, Mantarok couldn't even see the house when he was at the far edge of the fields. Mantarok had always hated the fog. He imagined seeing large, moving shapes just out of the range of vision sneaking up on him and preparing to devour him.

The scream of his sister Daisy snapped him out of his revery though. His father's head whipped up and they all took off running for where they had heard the scream. In the fog though, sounds are deceiving. As they ran, they started to drift apart and soon they couldn't see each other anymore. Mantarok saw the house barely outlined in the fog and he pressed towards it. The cold, clammy tendrils of mist slithered over his sweating body as he searched the inside of his house and found no one there. Stepping back outside, he felt a chill that had nothing to do with the fog as he heard his father begin to scream.

As suddenly as it began it swiftly stopped, which made it all the worse. He called out tentatively, “Pa? Ma? Daisy?” as he stepped down off the porch. A slowly, shuffling, dragging sound began in the distance. He saw a small shape begin to form in the mists and was relieved to see that it was his sister, Daisy. “Oh, Daisy. I heard you scream and we all came to find you. Where is everyone else, did Pa find you?”

The little girl continued to advance on her brother. Her slow, steady steps staggered occasionally as she looked up at him with a face caked in blood and smiled. Her teeth stained red and glistening she said, “I found Pa in the mists...just like Ma found me.” Mantarok took a step back in horror and couldn't speak. Soon, other forms began to appear, dark black stains against the gray fog. His father and brother soon shambled into view, both of their necks dark ragged stains of blood and gore. His sister giggled, the echo skittering about the fog and piercing his ears as she took their hands and said, “Soon, you'll join us and we'll go visit the neighbors.”

It was then that Mantarok noticed it. He must have noticed it earlier, but it simply had not registered against the horror of seeing his family standing before him as undead abominations. However, the proximity of it soon overpowered his minds ability to ignore it. 'Mother's perfume...' was the last conscious thought he had before everything went black.